As you all know, I am second year student at a local community college. I'll graduate in 2013 with my Associates Degree in Mental Health. The college I attend is in downtown Detroit. The students here are mostly economically depressed, not very book smart and not privileged. Some come to the college to try and take advantage of the system that doles out government backed tuition checks; even if you quit classes after a few weeks you'll still get a check. You won't get an education, but you'll get a quick fix in the cash department.
Last week in my class, I could tell just from looking at two women who were seated close to each other, that they were hardened. Today, we had an "unfolding" in our group therapy class where we all tell something about ourselves, and they shared a brief bit of their history. Here is an example of what I heard...
Several of my classmates admitted to being convicted felons who have done their time, some are out on parole. One of the women I had noticed earlier admitted to having been using heroin since she was fourteen and had spent 42 years in prison! She has been clean now for two years. She said she had a sixth grade education, but got her GED in jail. Her friend had that look of a woman in prison as well...cropped hair, multiple piercings, sweat clothes. Stereotypical? Yes. She too was a recovering addict and parolee. Both women however, were friendly and looked healthy. They appeared to want nothing more than to be part of this new life outside and most of all, they wanted to learn. I was like them.
Another woman also admitted to being a recovering addict, clean now four years. You would never know to look at her that drugs had been a major part of her life. Now she works for free at a local ministry, helping other recovering addicts A man in my class who I met last year admitted tonight to having served 30 years in prison. I was shocked! I could never have imagined my friend, this realy cool man I like a lot, had spent half of his life behind bars. And still another man I know from class has been sober for 25 years. Most of these men and women give back to their community and are good people. I am glad to know them and I am proud to be in a part of their lives. We are all trying to accomplish the same goals. We are really only one.
Concerning myself, you should know I am the oldest person in the class (by one year)...and the only Caucasian. It's been this way for the two years I've been here. My classmates don't treat ME any differently either. We are sharing this chapter in our lives together. I know I will be a better person for it.